30 04, 2018

My Favorite Poem

By |2018-04-13T18:23:11-05:00April 30th, 2018|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

April has been National Poetry Month. All month Poets.org has provided opportunities and activities to celebrate poetry and poets.

I couldn’t let the celebration pass without posting one of my favorite poems about a realio, trulio, little pet dragon named Custard. I read Ogden Nash’s poem The Tale of Custard the Dragon to my children and grandchildren so often they can quote it even today.

I love Nash’s nonsensical, humorous style. Reviewers criticize him for taking liberties with spelling and rhyme. I find those liberties delightful because I relate to the same habit.

Just ask my children and grandchildren. I’ve always called them each by a nonsensical name: Brooke became Brook E; Abby – Abby Me Gail; Faith – Faith-e-foo; Morgan-Morgan from org; Landry-Landy Pandy, J.B.-J.Beetle; Sara-Sa-RAH; and Stephanie-Steph-fon-ey.

I’m reminded of the poem every time I sit on the back porch and see my metalwork dragon. Named, you guess it, Custard.

In case you haven’t read the poem:

The Tale of Custard the Dragon

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called hum Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio daggers on his toes.

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.

Belinda giggled till she shook the house,
and Blink said Weeck! which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda,
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.

Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right,
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,
His beard was black, one leg was wood;
It was clear that the pirate meant no good.

Belinda paled, and she cried Help! Help!
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed.

But up jumped Custard snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm,
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.

The pirate gaped at Belinda’s dragon,
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,
He fired two bullets, but they didn’t hit,
And Custard gobbled him, every bit.

Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim.
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
Around the dragon that ate the pirate.

But presently up spoke little dog Mustard,
I’d been twice as brave if I hadn’t been flustered.
And up spoke Ink and up spoke Blink,
We’d have been three times as brave, we think,
And Custard said, I quite agree
That everybody is braver than me.

Belinda still lives in her little white house,
With her little black kitten and her little gray mouse,
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,
And her realio, trulio little pet dragon.

Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.

If you enjoyed The Tale of Custard the Dragon and would like to read other poems by Ogden Nash, check out this chronological list of all his work: http://www.ogdennash.org/ogden_nash_titles.htm

10 04, 2017

Do April showers bring May flowers?

By |2017-03-06T14:46:40-06:00April 10th, 2017|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

It wouldn’t be right to blog in April without referencing the old saying, “April showers bring May flowers.”

The phrase probably came from the General Prologue found in The Canterbury Tales:

“Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote.”

These words – March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers – can be found in The Dictionary of Proverbs by George Latimer Apperson and Martin H. Manser

Another version can be traced to the 1557 collection of writings by Thomas Tusser, A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry. For April, he wrote:

Sweet April showers
Do spring May flowers

Tusser’s rhyme is a short poem, which fits nicely since in 1996 the month of April became National Poetry Month. For ways to celebrate poetry this month, check here.

The writer in me can’t resist sharing the poetic meaning behind “April showers bring May flowers” – even the most unpleasant of things (in this case the heavy rains of April) can bring about very enjoyable things, i.e.an abundance of flowers in May. A lesson in patience that remains valid to this day.

But, do April rains truly bring May Flowers?

Not according to botany and biology research that says, for most species, first flowering is more closely tied to temperature than to rain.

According to Libby Ellwood, “The plants may not be aware of this proverb, but they rarely have to worry about having enough water in the spring to start growing and producing flowers. … But the water itself isn’t dictating flowering times the way that temperature is.”

David W. Inouye, a biology professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, studied bloom times in the Rocky Mountains. He concluded the Alpine flower blooming season, which used to run from late May to early September, now lasts from late April to late September because temperatures in the Rockies are becoming warmer. That means a longer wildflower viewing season for mountain hikers.

Perhaps, if climate warming more closely controls flowering, the proverb should be re-written to read “Warm temperatures in March bring April flowers.”

Somehow, that doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

14 10, 2013

Columbus Day-More than you may want to know

By |2013-10-14T06:01:08-05:00October 14th, 2013|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

On this day in 1492, one of the sailors on the Pinta sighted land, an island in the Bahamas, after 10 weeks of sailing from Palos, Spain, with the Santa María, the Pinta, and the Niña.

The Italian explorer Christopher Columbus believed he’d reached East Asia. He sighted Cuba and thought it was China, and when the expedition landed on Hispaniola, he thought he’d found Japan.

Columbus Day has been celebrated since the 18th century, but only became a U.S. federal holiday in 1937. Interesting that Hawaii, Alaska, and South Dakota don’t recognize the holiday.

Many celebrate Italian-American heritage on Columbus Day.

statue of Christopher Columbus in Lavagna, Genova, Italy.

Statue of Christopher Columbus                           Lavagna, Genova, Italy

Columbus’s contribution to world history was introducing Europeans to the New World, which led to cultural exchange, commerce, and exploration, and eventually to the discovery of the real westward route to the Indies.

But Columbus Day and the man who inspired it have also generated controversy.

Many argue that Europeans got land, slaves, and gold, while the aboriginals were dispossessed, enslaved, and infected.

Protests of Columbus Day celebrations resulted in the creation of Indigenous People’s Day in the 1990s, which coincides with Columbus Day.

When I think of Columbus Day, I think of the jingle I learned in school to remember the man’s accomplishment.

Christopher Columbus sailed in the ocean blue in 1492.

Turns out that’s only the beginning line of a much longer poem by Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr., who was known for poems, rhymes, and mnemonic jingles to aid in the recollection of information.

Curious, I looked up the complete poem published in the anthology Yankee Doodles: A Book of American Verse, edited by Ted Malone and published in 1943 by Whittlesey House (NY and London).

“The History of The U.S.” by Winifred Sackville Stoner

In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue
And found this land, land of the Free, Beloved by you, beloved by me.

And in the year sixteen and seven, Good Captain Smith thought he’d reach Heav’n,
And then he founded Jamestown City, Alas, ’tis gone, oh, what a pity.

’Twas in September sixteen nine, WIth ship, Half Moon, a read Dutch sign,
That Henry Hudson found the stream, The Hudson River of our dream.

In sixteen twenty, pilgrims saw Our land that had no unjust law.
Their children live here to this day, Proud citizens of U.S.A.

In sixteen hundred eighty-three, Good William Penn stood ’neath a tree
And swore that unto his life’s end He would be the Indian’s friend.

In seventeen hundred seventy-five, Good Paul Revere was then alive;
He rode like wild throughout the night, And called the Minute Men to fight.

Year seventeen hundred seventy-six, July the fourth, this date please fix
Within your minds, my children dear, For that was Independence Year.

In that same year on a bitter night At Trenton was an awful fight,
But by our brave George Washington The battle was at last well won.

Two other dates in your mind fix—Franklin born in seventeen six,
And Washington first said “Boo-Hoo” In seventeen hundred thirty-two.

In seventeen hundred seventy-nine, Paul Jones, who was a captain fine,
Gained our first naval victory Fighting on the big, wide sea.

And in the year eighteen and four, Lewis and Clark both went before,
And blazed for us the Oregon Trail Where men go now in ease by rail.

In eighteen hundred and thirteen, On great Lake Erie could be seen
Our Perry fight the Union Jack And drive it from our shores far back.

In eighteen hundred and sixty-one, An awful war was then begun
Between the brothers of our land, Who now together firmly stand.

In eighteen hundred sixty-three, Each slave was told that he was free
By Lincoln, with whom few compare In being kind and just and fair.

In eighteen hundred eighty-one, At Panama there was begun
By good De Lesseps, wise and great, The big canal, now our ship’s gate.

At San Juan, eighteen ninety-eight, Our brave Rough Riders lay in wait,
And on the land brought victory, While Dewey won it on the sea.

In nineteen hundred and fifteen, Was shown a panoramic screen
At San Francisco’s wondrous fair; All peoples were invited there.

But cruel war in that same year Kept strangers from our land o’ cheer,
And nineteen seventeen brought here The war that filled our hearts with fear.

Thank God in nineteen eighteen Peace on earth again was seen,
And we are praying that she’ll stay Forever in our U.S.A.

Are you celebrating Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day?

Me, I’m celebrating both and very thankful that my teachers never made me recite Stoner’s entire poem!

6 08, 2012

Spellcheckers and Pullet Surprise Work

By |2012-08-06T10:55:09-05:00August 6th, 2012|Uncategorized|7 Comments

I ran across this poetic reminder not to rely on your spellchecker and had to share. The poem’s 225 words are faulty, although all are correctly spelled. The work is more than an exercise in homophonous humor. It’s a wonderful example of a computer spell checkers’ Cupertino Effect.

“Candidate for a Pullet Surprise” was composed in 1992 by Dr. Jerrold H. Zar, professor emeritus of biology and retired dean of the graduate school at Northern Illinois University.

If you read aloud, you get the full impact.


I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o’er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

Bee fore a veiling checker’s
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we’re lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.

Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know fault’s with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.

Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word’s fare as hear.

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw’s are knot aloud.

Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.

In March 2007, Mark Eckman provided additional information about his role in creating the spell-checker poem. Read his account here.

“Candidate for a Pullet Surprise” endures as a cautionary tale for all of us who place too much trust in our computer’s spell checker. How about you? Any “horror” tales with your spell checker?

12 04, 2012


By |2018-04-13T16:55:06-05:00April 12th, 2012|poetry, Uncategorized, writing|14 Comments

April is NATIONAL POETRY MONTH. I didn’t know. Did you?

Seems back in 1996 the Academy of American Poet established the tradition to highlight American poets and encourage people about the pleasure of reading poetry. It’s all explained on their website.

Though I’m not a poetry writer, I ♥ to read poetry. I’ve memorized many poems by my favorite American poets. I read poems to anyone, willing or not.

To further the observance of poetry month, I’ll be sharing some poems by friends and family. I’ll start with one written by my second oldest grandson.

I may not write poetry, but I am a storyteller so first a little story about how this poem originated.

We were sitting at the kitchen table discussing how he should be doing homework. He’s home schooled, and I promised his parents I’d work with him while he was visiting.

Unfortunately, like father, like son. I remember fighting many a homework battle with his daddy who also hated doing homework. The thought of poetry homework made the task even less appealing, especially when the swimming pool was calling.

He starred outside at the squirrel climbing the pole to the bird feeder. He ate a Pop Tart. He slipped away to play a game of chess with his Pepa.

I marched him back to table and the task at hand. No, I’m not your push-over Nana. Although resisting those big, beautiful brown eyes isn’t always easy!

Then I caught him at the window. Again.

This time he was watching a chameleon on the Maple tree.

I thought he was wasting time and prepared to pull out my mean teacher’s whip! Before I could speak, he pointed to the laptop on the table. “I wrote the poem already.”

And, this is what I read on the screen:

Lizard Poetry

Lazy lizards leap from leaf to leaf

As green as a Sprite can

Lizards like to hide under the weather

Running, hiding, and sneaking around

Crazily, hastily, and hurriedly leaving their tails behind them

The miniature lizards are tiny compared to the big, blue sky

Amazing I think, don’t you agree? How quickly I’d forgotten how little boys multi-task when you think they’re playing.

YOUR TURN: Share one of your favorite poems!

2 03, 2012

It’s FRIDAY FREE DAY – Being a PURPLE COW writer

By |2012-03-02T08:10:01-06:00March 2nd, 2012|Bohemia, Friday Free Day, Gelett Burgess, Kristin Lamb, poetry, Purple Cow, Uncategorized, writer|6 Comments

Friday blog days will be silly or stream of consciousness or who knows what will strike my fancy. The idea comes from the years I taught elementary school physical education classes. Great job compared to my years of teaching reading and language arts with all those papers to grade. LOL

I wore shorts to school and lesson plans were easy because every Friday’s plan read Free Day. The other P.E. teacher and I put out assorted equipment and allowed the kids to have supervised free time during class. Things may have changed as far as teaching P.E. goes, who knows? But Friday’s on the blog will be free, crazy, and definitely fun. 

Today’s topic is purple cows. I’m also testing a principal I learned from Kristin Lamb’s WANA class on social media–a snappy subject line. Did it grab your attention???

Why a purple cow blog? Because I’ve always been intrigued by the work of Gelett Burgess and especially his poem about the purple cow.

Burgess, a fascinating Bohemian, wrote other whimsical, nonsense poetry, but THE PURPLE COW is by far the most famous. I know I’ve quoted it a gazillion times. Though, like most people, I leave off the second line of the title: Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least. Pity too because that’s where the essence lies.  Here’s the original the poem as published in 1895.


Purple cow is a metaphor for something that is out of the ordinary, something remarkable. Maybe Bugress didn’t personally want to be considered different.  In reality he was. Some say his works inspired Dr. Seuss. The Gelett Burgess Center for creative expression, organized to honor his creativity, gives The Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Awards yearly. It’s not the Caldecott, but still a prestigious honor for a children’s book.

Too many people do not want to take chances and be that Purple Cow, to stand out from the rest. To conform is to be comfortable, and many of us like to feel comfortable. But, is comfortable the place to be if you are a writer?

 I say no. Not with the publishing paradigm shift which allows anyone and everyone to become a published writer.

We have to be Purple cows. Different. Willing to stand out from the rest.Our stories need to be remarkable. Exceptional. After all, does the world need another ordinary writer, another ordinary story? I don’t think so.

Purple cow writers must be different at the same time consummate professionals. With the new reader-driven paradigm in publishing, we struggle to be noticed, to stand out in the pack. Often, we’re not traditionally published because our stories don’t fit the Big Six  genre boxes. Agents scratch their heads trying to pigeonhole our work. Which makes us half purple. To be a realio, trulio Purple Cow writer, we have to

  • create rich, absorbing stories  with emotional impact to grab the reader
  • know craft rules then break the ones that benefit our story
  • never stop learning
  • view every writing project as a stepping stone to something better
  • be devoted to KL’s social media theory for getting our name and our work noticed

What about you? Are you a PURPLE COW? Do you dare to step out of your comfort?

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